USB-IF To Palm: Apple is In-Spec; You, We're Not So Sure | webOS Nation

USB-IF To Palm: Apple is In-Spec; You, We're Not So Sure

by Dieter Bohn Tue, 22 Sep 2009 11:59 pm EDT

Another chapter in the iTunes / Pre Music Sync saga has opened, with the USB Implementers Forum responding to Palm's letter regarding the USB standard. Right, that last sentence might be Greek to you, so let's start at the beginning, which means that you're looking at a long one here, so follow us after the break!

 The Story Up to Now

  1. Palm enables iTunes Sync via a clever hack that makes the Pre identify itself as an iPod made by Palm.
  2. Apple hints via a snarky note in their support documents that Apple doesn't support 3rd party sync, Palm responds with equal snark that disabling sync would be a 'direct blow to their users'
  3. Apple snorts, breaks iTunes/Pre sync with the iTunes 8.2.1 update, which appears solely designed to block the Pre.
  4. 8 days later, Palm releases webOS 1.1, which re-enables sync
  5. The next day we reveal how Palm re-enabled iTunes Sync, instead of just pretending to be an iPod, the Pre pretends to be an iPod made by Apple.
  6. That same day it is revealed that Palm sent a letter to the USB-IF complaining that Apple was improperly abusing the USB spec by blocking certain vendor IDs in iTunes (this despite the fact that Palm itself was abusing the spec by having the Pre pretend to be something it's not).
  7. As time goes on, the mainstream media takes note.
  8. With the major release of iTunes 9, Apple once again breaks iTunes Sync.
  9. We anxiously await webOS 1.2, to see if Palm will once again play this iTunes / Pre Sync game of cat and mouse.

Today's Chapter

Ok, so today's development, courtesy of Digital Daily's John Paczkowski, relates to step 6 of our timeline above.  Here's the deal: the USB-IF, which oversees the USB spec and approves vendor's ability to use the USB logo, got the aforementioned letter from Palm complaining about Apple.  Their findings: Apple's probably cool:

In the view of the USB-IF, Palm's allegation (if true) does not establish that Apple is using its Vendor ID (VID) contrary to the USB-IF's policies. [...] Therefore, under present USB-IF policies, the USB-IF does not consider the alleged use, without more, to be 'improper.'

That is a swat, eh? If we were the guessing type, we'd say that the USB-IF is taking the tack that Apple's hardware implementation is within spec, and what they do with their software (iTunes) is out of their jurisdiction.

Not outside the USB-IF's jurisdiction: spoofing another company's Vendor ID. See point 5, above. When Palm alerted the USB-IF to the fact that they were doing that (and likely felt justified because Apple fired first), the USB-IF responded with a curt "ORLY?"

I attach for your information the USB-IF's adopted and published policy regarding Vendor Identification Numbers (VIDs). Under the policy, Palm may only use a single Vendor ID issued to Palm for Palm's usage. [...] Please clarify Palm's intent and respond to this potential violation within 7 days.

Now to be clear, the USB-IF appears to be responding to Palm's original, pre-webOS 1.1 intention, not to an intention to re-enable sync for 1.2.  Still, not a good sign for the future of iTunes sync for the Pre.

Palm has this to say:

“We engaged with the USB-IF because we believe consumers should have freedom and choice in how and where they use the non-rights managed media they already own. We are reviewing the letter from the USB-IF and will respond as appropriate.”

Hey, Palm, we know a lot of people love soap operas, but we're starting to get a little tired of them. We're coming around to the argument that you shouldn't have a core feature subject to the whims and fancys of a direct competitor who clearly isn't interested in making nice. There are plenty of other, safer ways to get iTunes sync going that, while they require 3rd party software, can't be as easily smacked down by the big A. "Freedom and choice" might include the freedom to not have to wonder whether your music sync will work and the choice to use something else.

Thanks to everybody who sent this in!